The ability to effectively communicate is critical to success in any endeavor. In public relations (PR) it’s even more important because despite what many people think, that’s what PR is. Contrary to what some may call “spin”, “spin doctoring,” “sorcery” or “dark magic” PR is all about effective communication to help educate others on what your business does, the products or services you offer and what differentiates you and your company from the competition.
Writing is an essential part of any public relations (PR) strategy. It’s also one skill that when done well can differentiate you and set you apart from others. Writing is also very subjective and open to criticism based on individual writing styles and preferences.
I write a lot in my job. I write blogs like this, press releases, case studies, contributed articles and a number of other pieces. For me, the more I write the easier it becomes. I can easily take a blank Word document and within a short period of time draft a press release or a 1200 – 1500 word blog entry or contributed article. I know some people that see a blank Word document and struggle to fill half the page.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few writing tips that have helped me successfully tackle the myriad of writing projects I’ve encountered during my career. I’ve listed these tips below.
- Have a topic. I find it easier to write the more I write. I also find that the more I write the more aware I am of potential topics to write about. Without a topic that blank sheet of paper or Word document can be overwhelming. As I think of potential topics I’ll write them down for future use. As I think about these topics and when other thoughts come to mind I’ll write them down as part of an overall outline of the topic.
- Draft an outline. Writing sounds easy until you sit down and are staring at a blank page. It can be intimidating. However, if you draft an outline of the topic you want to write about it will be less intimidating and provide the context of an article that you can simply begin building on.
- Be willing to share. There are so many opportunities to contribute content and share your expertise. However, if you’re not willing to share you’ll never be able to take advantage of these opportunities. To be a thought leader people need to know what you think or what your expertise is.
- Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). I’ve written about this in the past, but I learned this phrase from my high school newspaper advisor. The key is to try not to complicate things or try to sound too smart or use big, complicated words. It’s not about dazzling readers with your command of the English language or your extensive vocabulary. The key is to share and engage your readers and make it as simple as possible for them to understand your message. Simplicity will go further than dropping big words that nobody understands.
- Read what you write out loud. A former editor shared this tip with me years ago. If you write something it may sound one way or the way you want it to in your head but entirely different when you read it out loud. If you read it out loud you’ll hear what it sounds like to your audience. This editor told the story of being in a newsroom interviewing a potential new editor. She said as they toured the newsroom the candidate told her he could identify her best writers without even talking to or meeting them. She took him up on this offer and to her astonishment he was right. He identified her best writers without knowing or having met them before. She asked him how he did that and he said, “It was easy, I just watched for the ones reading their articles out loud.” I tried it and was surprised myself to see how effective it was at making my writing more concise. Try it yourself the next time you write something, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is.
These tips have served me well in my career. Writing is subjective and by following these tips you’ll be able to identify your own voice and develop your own writing style. You’ll also be able to communicate more effectively and utilize writing to differentiate yourself and the way you communicate from others in your industry.